Skip to main content

Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

See other formats


Children's minds are feeble. It is little use appealing to their
reason, " not so much because they still lack all the ideas and
the general principles of reason which they will afterwards
acquire, but because in their ignorance of many facts they cannot
apply the reason they have got, and because the instability of their
brain prevents them thinking connectedly."* Their only desire is
for pleasure ; and, unfortunately, the ordinary education separates
pleasure and effort, and associates effort with study, and
pleasure with amusements. That state of matters must be changed
by making study agreeable, and concealing effort under the guise
of liberty and pleasure. The fewer formal lessons there are the
better. An infinite amount of instruction more useful than
lessons can be insinuated into pleasant conversation. " I have
seen various children learning to read at their play. All that had
to be done was to tell them diverting stories, taken from a book
in their presence, and lead them to master the letters without
knowing it. After that they are eager to go to the source of this
pleasure for themselves."! Writing can be taught in much the
same fashion.

In this indirect instruction the teacher must make good use
of the natural propensities of childhood. Curiosity is of special
value for this purpose. " In the country, for example, they see
a mill, and they want to know what it is : they should be shown
how the food that nourishes man is prepared. They notice the
reapers at work: an explanation should be given about what
they are doing, and how the wheat is sown and multiplies in the
earth. In the town they see the shops where various crafts are
carried on and different kinds of goods sold. Show them that
you are pleased with their questions about these matters: by
doing so you will gradually teach them how all the things that are
of service to man are made. Gradually, without any particular
study, they will learn the right way to make all the things they
require and the proper price of each of them. If their curiosity
is encouraged in this fashion, their minds will become stored with
a mass of good materials, and in due season they will arrange this
for themselves and reason methodically. Until that time comes
it is enough to correct their errors in reasoning, and make them
feel as occasion offers what it means to draw a right conclusion." J
Another valuable propensity for indirect instruction is the
* Chapter vii,            f Chapter v,            J Chapter iii.